Wednesday, June 11, 2008

FOOD AID SINKS TO LOWEST LEVEL IN 50 YEARS

JAVIER BLAS, FINANCIAL TIMES Food aid volumes sank last year to their lowest level in almost 50 years as rising agricultural commodity prices - particularly for wheat, corn and rice - hit donors' budgets, a United Nations report will say. The Food Aid Flows report estimates global deliveries dropped last year to 5.9m tons - the lowest level since records began in 1961 and 15 per cent below the figure for 2006. The previous record low was set in 1973, also when the world was facing a food crisis.

The report, by the UN's World Food Program, warns that the resources available for food assistance need to increase in order to address negative effects of higher prices. "There is an urgent need to reverse this [downward] trend," the report says. . .

The warning comes as corn prices hit a fresh high of $6.73 a bushel, up 48 per cent since January. Soyabean and wheat prices also moved higher, further threatening to increase the cost of food aid this year.

Global food aid volumes have declined steadily since 1999, when they stood at 15m tonnes, but the drop accelerated last year as agricultural commodity prices surged.

Wheat prices rose by 122 per cent between 2000 and 2007, corn prices climbed 86 per cent and rice prices surged 62 per cent. The cost of shipping food also doubled last year, further eroding donors' budgets.

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